Mom, I’m on the blog! – 21st century skills at primary school

Published March 5, 2015 – by Els Schellekens

Yesterday, as I was sending a text on the train, the conductor said ‘I type the exact same way as you, with one finger.’ I replied: ‘I’m always jealous of how young people do it, much more quickly, with two thumbs.’ The conductor agreed. ‘My son always says: “Dad, you are so slow”. I tell him: “But at least I don’t make any mistakes.”’

Kids are writing and reading more than ever. They spend the entire day on their phones on WhatsApp, Facebook or myriad other websites that are mediated by written language. Who could have foreseen that smartphones would represent such an attack on functional illiteracy? They are a golden opportunity for language education – and yet, in school, they are usually forbidden. How strange.

We should use technology in education to keep kids’ attention. Give children a class blog and let them take turns in being journalists, taking photos with the class camera and writing explanatory texts. This is how Onze Klas Mijn Wereld (Our Class My World) – a method to work on social competence, language and ICT in primary schools – is giving the old methods of Célestin Freinet, the printing press and the class book, a modern upgrade.

When their work can be read by people other than just the teacher, the children care more about spelling words correctly. They learn about journalistic ethics, discussing in class which pictures should be on the blog. Who makes the decision? Can the subject of the picture veto its publication if they were snapped looking silly, falling over or with mouth agape?

Students from years 2 and 3 made a video about their own class, as an instruction for newcomers. They filmed the daily routines and explained the rules, which they have partly created themselves. They learned how to edit video footage, removing or refilming parts they weren’t happy with.

With the digital camera you can also bring home into the classroom. Students take the camera home when it’s their turn to have the class teddy bear for a sleepover. They film the adventures, decide what they want and don’t want to show, and discuss each others’ films in class – ‘Hey, I have the same duvet’; ‘I’m not allowed to use my tablet in bed.’ Small things, but a rich source of exchange.

Even the most shy child manages to talk out loud in class about their own pictures, and if it doesn’t come naturally, others’ questions will help – nothing is more motivating than sincere interest of class mates. And the interest is there: kids are always very curious about each other’s home lives.

ICT brings the world into the classroom, motivates students and makes media wisdom a natural part of learning.

Onze Klas Mijn Wereld is supported by the Bernard van Leer Foundation. More information can be found on their website (in Dutch).

Author: Els Schellekens (developer, writer and online editor, Bureau ELS, Amsterdam)